The symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder can be broken into three categories:
In each of these categories there are a list of symptoms some of which I have, some that I don’t, some that have faded in intensity, and some that have been overcome. A lot of the symptoms are considered normal to have after a traumatic event but if they persist past a month they are considered to be symptoms of PTSD. You also have to suffer from a certain amount of symptoms to be diagnosed with PTSD. One of the symptoms in the category of Re-experiencing is nightmares.
As a child I had the occasional nightmare. I had a couple reoccurring nightmares. In one of my reoccurring nightmares I would find myself outside a old fire hall, by myself. I would open a large garage door to find my brother and my cousins in the garage bay. Soon after I found them the floor of the fire hall would turn to a talking tar like substance and would swallow them up. I would try to get them out and would fail. I know this resembles the episode called “the skin of evil” on the show Star Trek: The next generation, but my dream came first.
As I grew older I rarely if ever had nightmares. After the shooting that quickly changed, nightmares became frequent and intense. Nightmares seem to be the one symptom I have that has worsened with time. I have nightmares quite regularly still, 12 years after the shooting. If I’m feeling stressed or worried about something they tend to increase in frequency. This year before my kids went back to school, after the summer break, I was having nightmares almost every night. Having nightmares is one of the symptoms that makes me feel quite childish, I even wake up crying sometimes. Nightmares not only affect my quality of sleep but they affect my ability to get up and go about my day in a normal productive manner. I often wake up at 5:30 am to go exercise. If I have had a nightmare I find it near impossible to force myself out of bed to go do so.
It takes me a while to be able to recover from the nightmares. I say it’s like my brain needs to reboot. The dreams can be very realistic and always involve feeling very panicked. They usually involve guns and will often be in a school of some sort. The only positive thing that has come from these nightmares is that it tends to be the first indication that I’m worrying about something. I have learned that when I start to have nightmares too frequently, I need to figure out what is bothering me and try to deal with it, talk about it, face it, address my apprehensions…… in short do what I need to do to get the nightmares to stop. But really it’s a reach to find something positive about them, they stink and I hate that my brain continues to insist on scaring and haunting itself.